The Undergraduate Association stands at a crossroads. This year, the organization has struggled with its own identity and concerns about its effectiveness amidst a seeming leadership vacuum in the Presidency. What successes the organization has seen are a credit to the work of Mike Bennie ’10 and Maggie Delano ’10. Their demonstrated dedication, strong relationships with active student leaders, and unequalled insight into improving the organization, make them the most likely to lead the UA into stable footing.
This past year will be remembered for public foul-ups in dining reform, an inability to effectively overcome administrative heel-dragging on the important issue of student engagement, and a lack of initiative from a young and inexperienced Senate.
But the UA is beginning to rebound. Senate has found its stride, the UA’s top leaders are making progress on policy initiatives, and morale is improving. The UA needs leaders to continue this trend, repairing the organization from the inside and making it better at student advocacy.
Next week, undergraduates will choose from among a diverse set of choices for the officers that will assume this responsibility.
Benjamin J. Agre ’12 and Raeez Lorgat ’12 have campaigned on constructing technological solutions to fix systematic problems in the UA. This naïve approach will not work alone without fixing the underlying social problems. Agre and Lorgat do not yet have the leadership skills and experience needed to inspire confidence in students. They have good ideas, and they should try to use them in the UA Senate or by seeking an appointment to the UA’s Chief of Information Technology position.
Ryan W. Jackson ’10 and Thomas W. Hay ’10, proud alumni of the Freshman Leadership Program, ground their plans in the strength of their existing social network. This approach should trouble members of the community who do not already know Jackson and Hay. The pair demonstrates enthusiasm and has supplied a few good, specific ideas, but they have not shown the knowledge and experience needed to run the UA. Their goal of a more unified and spirited student body is laudable — but their concrete policy goals fall short.
Michael A. Bennie ’10 and Margaret K. Delano ’10 are battle-hardened UA leaders who have, at times, single-handedly held together the organization through their own personal example. As insiders, the pair understands the structure, process, strengths, and weaknesses of the UA. They have gathered nearly unanimous approval from existing UA members — a testament that they can lead in difficult situations.
In addition, the pair already has extensive ties to the MIT administration; if they win, they will enjoy a fast transition that will give them more time to be effective in office. The ticket has shown a strong command of the pressing current issues. We view them as a safe bet, the most reliable leaders during a time of instability and regrowth.
If the UA is weak two years in a row, undergraduate leaders will lose credibility with students and the administration. The ideas of the Bennie/Delano platform are not revolutionary — and we hope that despite their experience they will be able to challenge the norm. But their consistency is a cornerstone vital to rebuilding the trust that the students place in their representatives.
This brings us to perhaps the most interesting development in this race; Abdulaziz Albahar ’10 and Tefwik Cassis ’10, running as write-in candidates. This pair of extraordinarily well-matched, forward-thinking student leaders provides an impressive alternative to the official candidates. They lack formal experience in the UA, but they stress that they have strong relationships with some members of the MIT administration. They have presented an ambitious set of novel and exciting goals for the organization to tackle under their administration.
The pair, disappointed by the platforms and performance of the other three tickets, decided late in the election cycle to seek the UA Presidency. Both juniors hail from Baker and have been friends since freshman year, but beyond that the similarities disappear. Albahar’s experience as an effective former Baker president demonstrates that he can build coalitions and get things done. Cassis, a newcomer to student government, shows an impressive level of foresight and nuanced thinking. Together, they offer the most impressive list of new ideas for the UA.
Although we are impressed by their ideas and determination, The Tech cannot endorse this ticket. Neither candidate has experience inside the UA, and the pair would need to play catch-up to seize the reins of this unwieldy body. Without existing relationships within the UA, Albahar and Cassis will find it difficult to use the system to implement their policies. And their entry into the race as write-ins seems to belie to the very foresight and thoughtfulness that so impressed us in their discourse. The duo could well serve as strong leaders of the UA — perhaps even the strongest. But their ticket represents a risky bet that we are not quite prepared to make.
Among the four tickets, two — Bennie/Delano and Albahar/Cassis — have clearly set themselves apart as the strongest and most capable leaders in this race. Albahar and Cassis could accomplish great things with the job. Nevertheless, Bennie and Delano are the best bet for the next year’s UA because of their dedication to duty, strength of character, existing relationships, and deep understanding of the UA’s operations.